Laser Class – Australia's strength a Slingsby legacy

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 10 Oct 2013

Laser Class – Australia's strength a Slingsby legacy

These days he might be better known as the America's Cup Oracle Team USA Oracle strategist, who worked so well with newbie tactician Ben Ainslie to guide them to an incredible victory in San Francisco.

But the long term legacy left on the Australian sailing scene by Australia`s six time Laser World Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist Tom Slingsby has been a dramatic strengthening in Australia's presence in the Laser class, ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Australia's Tom Burton has been ranked number one on the ISAF World Rankings for the last year and behind him Ryan Palk is third ranked, Matt Wearn number five and Ashley Brunning number six.

Tom Slingsby during the medal race at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition  Carlo Borlenghi/FIV - copyright

The 2013 Laser World Championship in Oman is looming. A top ten ranking is a funding landmark for many Rio aspirants.

We caught up today with Ashley Brunning, at the French Olympic Regatta in La Rochelle France, before the first race of an important regatta.

Ashley Brunning - Lasers - AUS - Day 1 - La Semaine Olympique Française de Voile 2013 ©

‘I have been in Europe for seven and a half months now. It has been a very long season, but time on the water has been a key factor for me. I am drawing to a close here before going home to Australia, which of course I am extremely happy about.

‘So I will have a short break before the very important Laser Worlds coming up in a month, in Oman, so this is the last regatta we can do in preparation for the world championships. It has been a good season so far.

Ashley Brunning on day one of the Laser European Championship  Michael Blackburn

‘I finished tenth at the Euros which has been the last big regatta I did. Just got to keep working at it and hopefully I can repeat that result but a little better at the worlds.

‘I have been trying to do a lot of regattas this year and it is the year after the Olympics so it is a good time to do as much experience sailing as you possibly can.

Stalheim, Jesper in action during the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2013  Walter Cooper ©

‘The competition here in La Rochelle is very good. The favourite is probably Jesper Stalheim from Sweden, who is second ranked in the world behind Tom, (he and I have been training a lot together in recent times). Jean Baptiste Bernaz is here, he is currently fourth. Phillip Buhl, the German and European Champion for example, Nick Heiner who was second at Sail for Gold in Weymouth. Nick Thompson is coming back strongly with a fourth at the Europeans.

‘The quality at this regatta is very high and for us all it's a perfect lead into the worlds.'

We will follow Ash's progress over the coming days with interest. We talked to Tom Burton, Ryan Palk and Matt Wearns earlier in the season.

With Michael 'Blackers' Blackburn guiding them as he did Tom Slingsby before them, Australia is currently the strongest Laser sailing nation.

Now with the next America's Cup in 2015 or 2017, will the date be fixed into 2017 so that Slingsby has time and energy for a tilt at Rio 2016 in the Finn class?

Today we also talked to Britisher Giles Scott, who many consider might have been the best Finn class sailor of the last eight years, determine to grab the Gold Medal that twice went before to his nemesis Ben Ainslie.

But that is a story for tomorrow.

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